We have acquired the archive of Andrey Avinoff, former Director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Professor of Art and Biology at the University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh Library System's Archives & Special Collections is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Andrey Avinoff Archive. The collection consists of roughly fifteen linear feet of material and spans the period from his immigration to the United States in 1917 to well after his death in 1949.

Andrey Avinoff was one of Pittsburgh’s most notable intellectual, cultural, and artistic figures during the second quarter of the twentieth century. Initially residing in New York, he moved to Pittsburgh in 1926 to serve as Director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, a position he occupied until his retirement in 1945. While at the Carnegie, he used his training as an entomologist to help the museum build its distinctive collection of butterflies, a frequent subject of Avinoff’s art. Alex J. Taylor, Assistant Professor and Academic Curator in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, observes: “As Director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Avinoff was at the very center of Pittsburgh’s cultural community, and his papers will immeasurably enrich our understanding of its institutional histories.”

Materials in the collection include much personal correspondence, documents pertaining to Avinoff’s career at the Carnegie and as a professor of biology and art at the University of Pittsburgh, lecture notes from teaching and public presentations, many unpublished papers on subjects ranging from Eastern religions and philosophy to literature and music, published scholarship on entomology and science, numerous reproductions of his artwork from all genres, personal and family photographs, and many biographical articles published about Avinoff during his lifetime. Dr. Taylor notes: “This extraordinary collection reveals, for the first time, the full gamut of his extraordinary polymath interests across art, science, religion, mythology and more. The sheer diversity of Avinoff’s practice will provide rich research territory for students and scholars from a wide variety of fields.”

Avinoff is perhaps best known at the University of Pittsburgh for his establishment and design of the Russian Nationality Room in the Cathedral of Learning, his watercolors of the Nationality Rooms, and his drawings of the Cathedral’s Commons Room. Materials relating to these endeavors are among the true highlights of the collection as are the over one hundred original pieces of Avinoff’s artwork and a large portrait of Avinoff himself painted by his sister Elizabeth Shoumatoff. These items were donated by Avinoff's grandniece, Antonia Shoumatoff. The University Library System’s acquisition of the Avinoff Archive is a valuable addition to the ULS’s distinctive collections and complements its already substantial holdings in Russian and East European Studies. The collection will be open for research this semester.



Daniel M. Pennell
Curator for Slavic, European, and Eurasian Studies
University of Pittsburgh University Library System
Archives & Special Collections
331 Hillman Library